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CJ STOPS UNESWA MATTER FROM BEING HEARD TODAY

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MBABANE – Not today!

The start of the examination at the University of Eswatini (UNESWA) on Monday has once again been thrown into disarray. This follows that the court case between the institutions and its employees, which was supposed to be heard today will no longer continue as scheduled.

The matter was scheduled to be heard today at 10am and this comes after the UNESWA management filed an application at the Industrial Court seeking an order to stop what it termed an unlawful work stoppage by lecturers and non-academic staff who are housed under the Association of Lecturers and Academic and Administrative Personnel (ALAAP) and the National Workers Union in Swaziland Higher Institutions (NAWUSHI).

Arguments

For today’s court session, the two parties were expected to make their arguments and it was anticipated that there would possibly be a judgment giving a way forward, on whether the work stoppage continues or not on Monday.
This publication has reliably gathered that the Chief Justice (CJ) Bheki Maphalala allegedly issued a directive that the case would not continue as he had not been consulted.

According to the sources, the CJ is said to have raised concern that the matter was to be heard on a weekend, while he had not been consulted. “The CJ said matters that are to be heard on weekends have to be communicated to him and he must give approval first. In the event that the matter continues, the judge and prosecutors could face disciplinary action for defying him,” said one of the sources.

It was reported that the judge who was meant to hear the case, Abande Dlamini, was informed after lunch yesterday about the directive issued by the CJ. When called for comment, top Lawyer Hasso Magagula, who is representing the lecturers and non-academic staff of the institution confirmed that the matter would no longer be heard today.
Even though not confirming the reasons, Magagula said the matter would now be heard on Monday.

Representing

Also confirming that the matter will now take place on Monday was Attorney Banele Gamedze, who is representing the UNESWA management in the matter. It should be noted that the examination was initially meant to start the past Monday but the UNESWA staff members took a stance that they would not go to class. Instead, they said they needed a week to recover from the stress they endured after going for four days without being paid their salaries for the month of February 2023.

Their salaries were expected to be paid on Monday, but they ended up receiving them on Friday last week. On the same day they eventually received their salaries, they engaged in an extra-ordinary meeting where they took some resolutions. The resolutions were documented in a statement which was then issued by ALAAP Secretary General Dr Mduduzi Shongwe.

According to the statement, the ALAAP members resolved that the executive committee should communicate to the institution’s management that they were not ready to participate in teaching and learning activities, including invigilating examination and thus, will need a week from the day of payment of salaries.

The members said they needed the week to seek treatment and remedies for the psychological and financial stress they had endured during the time of the delayed payment of salaries. Another resolution taken by the members was that, on the same Monday they were going to Parliament to raise awareness of the plight of the institution.

Management

Thirdly, the members resolved that the current management of the institution be given seven calendar days to remit all monies owed to all financial institutions which were deducted from sources, but never remitted. The monies, according to the statements, include remittances for medical aid. In the event the management failed, the association said the members will not continue with teaching and learning.

In the same letter, reference was made to two joint correspondences dated June 5, 2023, and March 30, 2023, which were written by the association together with NAWUSHI to the University Council, on a vote of no confidence on the entire management.

“The current management is given seven calendar days to resign en masse, failing which, ALAAP members will not continue with teaching and learning activities under the current management,” reads part of the letter. On Monday, the staff members visited Parliament and delivered a petition.

Postponed

The examination was then postponed to next week, however, the staff members made it known that they were not prepared to go to class. This then propelled the UNESWA management to file an application seeking an order to force the staff to resume work. It should be noted that last Saturday, Minister of Education and Training Owen Nxumalo invited the representatives of the two organisations that represent the staff members.

The meeting was held at the ministry’s boardroom and a decision was taken that a task team will be appointed to conduct an assessment of the challenges faced by the country’s supreme institution of higher learning. “The task team will go to the university and get to understand why there are challenges. We are hoping that the team will make proper recommendations on how the institution can be assisted. We must remember that civil servants must never face the frustration of not being paid their salaries but right now there is a misconception that government is not releasing the money,” said Nxumalo.

Elaborating, the minister clarified that the assessment was not necessarily a forensic audit but a fact-finding exercise.
The Industrial Court Registrar Sithembile Simelane could only confirm that the matter will now be heard on Monday. When asked to state the reason for the postponement she said such information could not be divulged to the media. An effort to get a comment from the CJ were not successful as his cellphone number rang unanswered when called last night.

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